Individuals may file Form G-639, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request, to obtain access to USCIS immigration records. You can make the request for yourself or consent to another individual accessing immigration records pertaining to you.
The Freedom of Information Act, also known simply as FOIA, is an American law that requires the full or partial disclosure of information and documents controlled by the United States government upon request. In the case of immigration records, you may request a copy of what the government has in it’s files. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the agency that possesses the information.
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What is Form G-639?
Filing a FOIA request (Form G-639) is an excellent way to understand what USCIS knows about you. That’s why immigration attorneys regularly use a FOIA request to gather information about their clients. Attorneys want to get all available information so that they can provide informed advice. The FOIA request is also a great way to get information about your family genealogy. You can gather actual records filed by a family member that immigrated to the United States many years ago.
Correct Uses an Immigration FOIA Request
An individual may use Form G-639 to:
- Request his or her own immigration records
- Request immigration records of another person (with that person’s consent)
- Correct or amend these records
For most requests, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will provide copies of these records at no cost to you. (Requests that require significant hours and photocopying will incur fees.)
Incorrect Uses of an Immigration FOIA Request
You should not file Form G-639 for any of the following reasons:
- To determine the status of a pending application. Instead, call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
- For consular notification of a visa petition approval. Instead, use Form I-824, Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition.
- To request the return of original documents. Instead, use Form G-884, Request for Return of Original Documents.
- To request records of naturalization prior to September 27, 1906. Instead, write the clerk of court where the naturalization occurred.
- To request information on USCIS manifest arrivals prior to December 1982. Instead, write the National Archives.
- To obtain proof of status (i.e. Social Security benefit, Selective Service requirement).
How Long It Takes
USCIS can take from a few weeks to a few months to respond to a Form G-639 FOIA request. The processing time depends on the nature of the request plus several other factors. As you might expect, simple requests are generally fulfilled more quickly. In certain cases, expedited processing may be available.
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